One of the hardest things I’ve had to do in life is admit that I’m sensitive.
I’m a dude who cries and a guy who cares.
For years, I put on one mask after another to disguise my sensitivity but no matter how manly I tried to be, my emotional side always got the best of me.
Today, I’m not really sure why I tried to hide my sensitive side—although I suspect it has something to do with trying to fit in— but I have always been in tune with my emotional state and the emotional state of others.
When I look back at the people I’ve gravitated towards in my life, I find that many of my relationships were built on the fallacy that I could eliminate other people’s sufferings.
I’ve always been able to feel other people’s pain and because of that, I’m acutely aware of my own pain and suffering.
Sweaty palms and ugly cries
If you’ve read any of my older blogs, you know that 4 years ago I had my first panic attack at work.
Since then, my life’s path has changed dramatically because I can no longer ignore the fear I hold within.
Through years of therapy, meditating, and journaling, I’ve come to realize that my anxiety ultimately stems from a fear of rejection.
In the past I wanted so badly for other people to like me that I would literally do anything for their approval—even change who I was.
For years I tried to hide my sensitivity and adopted one personality trait after another until I couldn’t even recognize who I was anymore.
I became shut off emotionally and with each emotional episode, the pressure continued to accumulate.
Up until then, I ignored my thoughts and feelings. I pushed through speeches, presentations, and public speaking events and never thought twice about how those experiences made me feel.
I spent my college years blissfully unaware of the sleeping giant that laid within, ready to burst through at any moment.
After college, life changed.
I got married and went straight into corporate America where right away, the stakes seemed higher which meant my emotions were starting to pile up.
I was an “adult” and I needed to show everyone who told me I had “potential” that they weren’t wrong.
I thought to myself, “This is the big leagues now, I have to step up to the plate.”
It didn’t take long for my anxiety and low self-esteem to rear their ugly heads.
It all started with the first panic attack back in 2015 and since then I would be lying if I said I hadn’t had another episode because the truth is, I’ve had several others…
But you know what?
I’m allowed to fail!
I’m allowed to feel what I feel, and I’m allowed to take risks and make a fool out of myself!
Don’t be afraid to feel
Today, it’s been two years since my last panic attack and I’m proud of that…
Not because I’ve mastered my emotions, but rather, because I’ve stopped holding them in.
What I’ve found is that with each embarrassing emotional outburst I was forced to look within and when we look within ourselves, we begin to see the systems that operate our lives.
I, like so many of us, was living oblivious to the operating systems that ran my personal beliefs and the thoughts I had about myself.
For me, fear was the main operating system and until I was forced to see it, I let it run my life.
But here’s the beauty of feeling your feelings:
Once you confront them and face them head on, YOU get to choose what operating system you want to run.
Furthermore, when you can feel your feelings fully without judgment, YOU get to choose how you feel about them…!
Think about that, instead of letting our emotions tell us how we feel, WE get to tell our emotions how we feel about them!
Instead of simply being subject to your emotions, by feeling them and feeling them fully, we can stand beside our emotions without trying to run away from them.
Something truly amazing happens when you stop trying to bottle up your emotions and stop pretending you’re someone you’re not.
There is true power in being authentic and admitting you need help. To this day, I cry in front of Chante all the time and if you ask her, it’s only strengthened our relationship.
In no way has showing my emotions made me less of a man to my wife. In fact, the opposite is true.
Because you know what’s truly manly?
Sobbing in front of your wife because you got no sleep the night before an important job interview.
Asking her to forgive you for failing.
Telling your spouse you’re nervous and scared and letting them comfort you.
Asking for help because you feel like you can’t do it by yourself anymore.
A manly cry
This is the story of my last panic attack:
In early 2016, right before my third and final interview for a job at a bank that I was completely under-qualified for, I completely broke down in front of my wife.
To this day, I’m not sure how I made it to the final round but nonetheless there I was…
Thirty minutes before the interview I stood in front my wife as a broken man.
The irony of wearing a suit and looking powerful while crying didn’t escape me as my heart beat out of my chest and the tears continued to pour from my eyes.
I felt completely vulnerable and emotionally naked as I tried to regain my composure before I lost my wife’s respect.
To say I was embarrassed is an understatement.
I asked her not to think less of me for breaking down in front of her, but to my surprise I saw her choking up as well.
She looked me in the eyes and told me I would be okay and then said something I didn’t expect…
“Thank you,” she said. “You have no idea how much closer I feel to you now that you have let me be there for you… I love you.”
I honestly never thought my wife and I could possibly get any closer but after that morning, we definitely did. I let her see a side of me that I was too embarrassed to share with anyone else my entire life and there she was, embracing me, holding me, reassuring me and loving me…
Her unconditional support and kindness that morning has continued to encourage me to take risks and be vulnerable.
She showed me true grace and acceptance in that moment of weakness and at the end of the day, isn’t that what we are all looking for?
Don’t we all want someone to love us even when we fall and even when we are out our worst?
Don’t we all want to stop pretending to be someone we’re not?
Don’t we all want to stop wearing masks and live this life authentically and to the highest of our ability?
I don’t know about you, but I sure do and if you’re like me, embracing your emotions is the first step in embracing who you truly are.
So then, I implore you, don’t spend another day pretending to be something you’re not. Be authentic. Cry. Make an ass out of yourself because the people who stick around after all that are the people who will always stick around.
Thank you as always for reading. Do you have a story about how being vulnerable made your life better? Are you still looking for a way to be vulnerable? Either way, let us know. We would love to hear from you!
All stories of vulnerability are really stories of growth, so we look forward to hearing your stories of growth and courage!
See ya next week